Setting boundaries seems hard — until you get that first life-changing taste of inner peace.
You’ve probably heard by now how boundaries are important for maintaining healthy relationships. But setting and maintaining our boundaries successfully only happens when we are clear on what those boundaries are. If we’re not clear on them, we can slowly erode our personal agency without meaning to.
This can show up in sneaky ways. Maybe you stop to talk to a new neighbor when you really want to go inside to get back to your work. But you can sense so clearly that they want to keep sharing about their day with you, so you stay. Or someone flirts with you that you’re not interested in, but instead of stating your boundaries and walking away, you feel like you have to be nice, so you go along with it.
What happens over time, when you let these things slide, is that you leak energy. You can literally feel tired, perpetually, from not setting boundaries! When you don’t maintain boundaries, it will ultimately lead to feelings of resentment, passive-aggressiveness, communication breakdowns, and eroding self-confidence.
And what makes boundaries challenging for highly sensitive people (HSPs) is that we are so attuned to others’ needs that we can quickly drop our boundaries without meaning to. We can easily shut down and be flustered, because there’s the possibility of upsetting the other person and not being “approved” by setting a boundary. The key is getting clear on the different areas of your life that boundaries touch, managing your energy, and keeping some canned responses you can use instead of feeling like a deer in headlights when the moment comes.
Getting Clear on Your Personal Boundaries
Setting — and enforcing — boundaries takes practice, believe me. When defining your boundaries, I’ve found it helpful to ask yourself these questions and journal on them:
- Where do you struggle with boundaries the most?
- What behavior will you — or won’t you — tolerate? (For example, friends that don’t support you or when someone raises their voice at you.)
- What boundaries can you set around time? Energy? Relationships? Career?
After you journal on the above, you’ll probably have a lot more insight, and answers, than you’d anticipated. Which brings me to my next point…
Boundaries Around Your Energy and Schedule
Overbooking yourself is one clear recipe for burnout, especially for HSPs. We need more downtime than others, so it’s important to make sure you have blank space in your schedule, like an hour between appointments. This will help you restore your energy. It’s going to be difficult to be empowered over your schedule if you book yourself everyday of the week, with no time to just “be.” In our subconscious need for approval and nature to be there for others, sensitive people often say “yes” without giving it a second thought.
But HSPs can be more prone to burnout this way. So make sure you always have at least two or three nights a week wherein you have scheduled relaxation time. I love making Sundays sacred. I stay off social media, dedicate my time to creative expression, clean around the house, and cook healthy meals. This helps to restore balance and gives me more energy for the week ahead.
Take as many breaks as you need to — this way, you can be balanced in your energy and not a victim to your schedule. Having boundaries around your time online and social media is also important, because HSPs pick up the energies of everyone they are connected to, even on the internet. Choosing specific days of the week to go on social media, like Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays only, is a great start. Notice how different you feel on these days off! Understanding your preferences and your values will guide your boundaries. You’ll see!
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How to Set — and Maintain — A Boundary
I work as a spiritual coach, and now that you know the importance of setting boundaries, here is a conversation framework I give to my clients. You can use it to set and maintain your own boundaries.
- Always start with positive acknowledgement (if authentic and applicable).
- State how you feel: Make it personal, and not say that the person made you feel that way. Use an “I felt…” statement vs. a “You made me feel…” one.
- State the behavior that left you feeling this way: be clear about what was hurtful.
- State how you would like to be treated instead.
- Thank them for listening to your boundaries.
This is a simple framework that highly sensitive types can turn to anytime they feel a boundary has been crossed. This type of honest feedback is crucial in maintaining healthy relationships based on honesty, trust, and open communication — all of which we HSPs already value.
The Relationship Between Boundaries and Energy
A leak in energy will occur when you don’t set boundaries in the physical world. However, on an energetic level, as a sensitive soul, you can also have the tendency to allow others to feed off your energy (almost like a vampire). When other people take your energy, usually subconsciously, then you, without boundaries, are left feeling drained. However, there are a few ways you can protect your energy and keep your vibration high throughout the day.
- Practice intentional meditation. One way to start the day with good energy is by doing 10 minutes of intentional meditation, where you visualize a white bubble of light surrounding your aura. You can call on Archangel Michael (known as the “chief angel”) to put a bubble around you, your home, your vehicle, and your place of work. I like to start and end the day this way. It’s an easy way to mentally ask for protection from an outside guide, and one who is an angel whose duty is energetic protection!
- Recognize when you are not feeling emotions that are yours, such as collective sadness and fear. If you feel sad or upset for no reason, this could be why. Each person’s individual energy is connected, and when there is enough of the same energy and vibration, a collective energy field is created. As I mentioned before, social media (and the media in general) can be a source of negative energy that many are tuned into and affected by, particularly highly sensitive souls. To remove yourself from this type of collective energy field, you can visualize yourself stepping out of that bubble of energy, removing yourself, and instead, stepping into your own energy field of peace, joy, and love. You may imagine yourself lying in a field of wildflowers or sitting by your favorite stream — whatever brings you calm.
- Use essential oils. There are many benefits of using essential oils, like promoting a state of relaxation. An energy protection tool I recommend is doTERRA Tea Tree Essential Oil. You can dilute it with coconut oil and swipe it over your wrists and chest for daily energetic protection. Essential oils that are pure are substances with high energetic vibrations, so when they are used this way, they can create a “shield” around your aura.
- Do a grounding exercise, like breathwork. Think of the breath as being a scrub brush that’s getting in all the nooks and crannies of your energy field and clearing out stagnant or negative energy with the exhale. I find this tool especially helpful for HSPs since we pick up so much with our open and sensing energy that we don’t even realize (even when we do set boundaries). So this is a helpful, regular practice to have to maintain a clear energy field.
Setting and maintaining boundaries can definitely be more challenging for us HSPs, as we are wired to focus on our external environments and other people. So it takes being conscious of your values, energy, and relationships, as well as having a tool kit — like the above — you can turn to in order to successfully manage your energy and life.
Emily Smith is a spiritual coach who mentors high-achieving HSP women in their thirties. For more, check out her new book, Wholeness Within.
You might like:
- 5 Grounding Techniques for Overstimulated HSPs
- How to Actually Set Better Boundaries as an HSP
- 18 Things That Fill Highly Sensitive People With Joy
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